House Of Representatives Approves Ban On Mining Around The Grand Canyon

The U.S. House of Representatives sent a powerful message to mining interests this week with a vote to permanently ban uranium mining on 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon, the Arizona Daily Sun reports.

While the bill passed on a party-line vote, 236-185, it was a significant victory for environmentalists and give the legislation momentum as it heads to the Senate.

Within minutes of the anti-mining legislation passing, Republicans complained that it would do little to protect the Grand Canyon while at the same time costing the area jobs and economic activity.

But those claims were countered by Democrats and local Native American tribes:

“Democrats said the real threat is to the contamination threat the mining poses to a popular natural treasure and to residents of the area, including tribes that live in and around the canyon. In a news conference after the vote, they called it a major step toward safeguarding spiritual and cultural lands.

“‘In 2019, our Havasupai voices were heard after 30 years,’ said Carletta Tilousi, a councilwoman for the Havasupai Tribe, said after the vote.”

Hours before the final vote was taken, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) took to the House floor and claimed that not allowing mining would cost Arizona 4,00 0 jobs and $29 billion in economic benefits:

“This has nothing to do with the Grand Canyon. This has everything to do with monopolization and removing part of the segment that we promised future generations.’

“Gosar also accused Democrats of using Native American tribes and the public as ‘pawns’ by suggesting that the bill would affect the park itself

“‘It’s sad when we use them as pawns … When we have a press conference and they don’t even know what they’re coming to the press conference for. That’s sad. America, wake up.'”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), said Gosar was being disrespectful for suggesting the local native tribes didn’t understand the danger from uranium mining in the area:

“To make those comments is not only insulting to all of us, but particularly mean to the people who have been fighting this fight for so long.”

Girjalva also batted down the argument that Arizona’s mining industry would be harmed by his legislation:

“The idea that we need to mine around the Grand Canyon to meet our energy needs is false. There is ample data to show it, and national security and nuclear nonproliferation experts have routinely raised the alarm this fear mongering about supplies is based on fantasy.”

The environmental impact cannot possibly be overstated, either, according to the Wilderness Society, which warns that uranium mines threaten the Grand Canyon’s watershed:

“The groundwater of the park and that of the surrounding area – which includes the land of the Havasupai Tribe – could become contaminated with uranium and other toxic substances. Navajo miners exposed to uranium in the mid-1900s suffered injuries and even death.”

Rep. Grijalva’s legislation now goes to the Senate, where its fate is less certain:

“Former Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012 imposed a 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hardrock mining permits 355,000 acres in the Kaibab National Forest, more than 600,000 acres owned by the Bureau of Land Management, and nearly 24,000 acres where ownership is split between private owners and the federal government.

“The House bill would make that moratorium permanent, if it is passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president. Critics called both steps unlikely, but Grijalva said Wednesday he is optimistic about the bill’s chances in the Senate.”
And even if the bill did pass the Senate, it remains unclear if President Donald Trump would sign it. The Trump administration has routinely sided with corporate interests over the concerns of environmentalists on nearly every major issue.
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Andrew Bradford
 

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